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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Exertions of Lord President Forbes


Whilst the adherents of Charles in the Highlands and the northern Lowlands were exerting all their energies to collect reinforcements, Lord-president Forbes was using all his influence to prevent the chiefs of doubtful loyalty from committing themselves with the government. To induce them to arm in its support after the success which had attended the prince's arms, was what he could scarcely have expected; but by persuasion, and by pointing out in forcible terms the ruin which would befall them and their families, should the prince fail in his enterprise, he succeeded in making them at first to waver, and finally to abandon any design they may have entertained, of joining the prince. Among others who appear to have vacillated between two opinions, and in their perplexity to have alternatively changed their minds, was Macleod of Macleod. This chief, influenced probably by the solicitations of his clansman, who had been sent to him on the mission before alluded to, attended a meeting of gentlemen of the name of Fraser, convened by Lord Lovat at Beaufort, or Castle Downie, as that seat of the chief of the Frasers was sometimes called, on Friday the 4th of October, and was despatched the following day to Skye, having engaged to join the Frasers with his men at Corriearrick on the 15th; but on advising with his friend Sir Alexander Macdonald, he resolved to stay at home.

In neutralising the efforts of the disaffected clans, and dissuading others of doubtful loyalty from joining the ranks of the insurgents, President Forbes had difficulties to contend with, which few men could have overcome, but which he finally surmounted by that firmness, zeal, and indomitable perseverance, which distinguished him among all his political contemporaries. At its commencement, Forbes treated the insurrection very lightly. Before his departure for the north, he considered the prospect of affairs very flattering, and that the object of his journey had no appearance of difficulty; but the alternation in public feeling, consequent on the battle of Preston, changed the scene. Instead of finding the ready support he anticipated from the professed adherents of the government, he saw himself, to use his own words, "almost alone, without troops, without arms, without money or credit; provided with no means to prevent extreme folly, except pen and ink, a tongue and some reputation; and, if you will except Macleod, whom I sent for from the Isle of Skye, supported by nobody of common sense or courage". The successes of the insurgents had, he observes, "blown up the spirit of mutiny to such a pitch, that nothing was heard of but caballing, and gathering together of men in the neighbourhood: every petty head of a tribe, who was in any degree tinged with Jacobitism, or desperate in his circumstances, assembled his kindred, and made use of the most mutinous, to drag the most peaceable out of their beds, and to force others to list by threatening destruction to their cattle and other effects; whilst we were unable to give them any assistance or protection". Exasperated at the president for the exertions he made to obstruct the designs of the disaffected, a plan was formed for seizing him by some of the Frasers, a party of whom, amounting to about 200 men, accordingly made an attack upon the house of Culloden during the night between the 15th and 16th of October; but the president being upon his guard, they were repulsed. The apprehension of such an important personage would have been of greater service to the Jacobite cause than the gaining of a battle.

Confiding in the loyalty and discretion of President Forbes, the ministry had, at the suggestion of the Earl of Stair, sent down to the president, early in September, twenty commissions, for raising as many independent companies in the Highlands for the service of the government. The names of the officers were left blank in the commissions, that the president might distribute them among such of the well-affected clans as he might think proper. The plan which his lordship laid down for himself, in disposing of these commissions, was to distribute them among the clans who adhered to the government in the former insurrection, without neglecting such other clans, who, though then opposed to the government, had, on the present occasion, shown an unwillingness to join the Jacobite standard. To raise the companies, which were fixed at 100 men each, as quickly as possible, the president resolved to leave the nomination of the officers to the chiefs of the clans, out of whom they were to be raised. He accordingly despatched letters to the Earls of Sutherland and Cromarty, Lords Reay and Fortrose, Sir Alexander Macdonald, the lairds of Macleod and Grant, and other chiefs, requesting each of them to raise a company out of their respective clans, most of whom accordingly proceeded to enrol their men; but from the want of money and arms, only two companies were completed before the end of October, and several months expired before the whole were fully formed and drawn together.

If the majority of the people of Scotland had been favourably disposed to the cause of the Stuarts, they had now an opportunity of displaying their attachment to the representative of their ancient monarchs, by declaring for the prince; but Charles soon found that, with the exception of the Highlands, and a few districts north of the Tay, where catholicity and non-juring episcopacy still retained a footing, the rest of Scotland was not disposed to join a contest for legitimacy, which they might imagine would not, if successful, strengthen the liberties of the nation, and might possibly impair them. The regular line of hereditary succession had been departed from, and it did not seem wide after a trial of fifty-seven years, during which period the political frame and texture of society had undergone a complete revolution, to place the succession on its original footing, by restoring the son of James II. The Jacobites, however, imbued with ideas of indefeasible hereditary right, were deaf to every argument founded on expediency or the will of the nation, and contended that every departure from the direct line of succession was a usurpation, and contrary to the divine law. No sovereign was, therefore, held by them as legitimate, while there existed a nearer heir to the crown in the direct line of succession; but they did not reflect toat, upon this principle, there was scarcely a legitimate sovereign in Europe.


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